Annapolis Insights: Legislative Newsletter – Week 11

Dear constituents,
As we embark on the final stretch of this legislative session, I’m energized by the progress we’ve made and the work that lies ahead. Crossover Day, which occurred this Monday, March 18th, serves as a critical milestone in our legislative journey. It’s a time when bills must pass one chamber to be considered by the other, ensuring thorough review and debate before our session adjourns on April 8th. With only three weeks remaining, we’re dedicated to ensuring that each bill is heard and voted on, with the aim of benefiting Marylanders and strengthening our communities. This week, the general assembly advancing over 700 bills, underscoring our steadfast commitment to our policy priorities for the 2024 session. Together, we’re driving positive change and shaping a better future for our state. I’m excited to share updates on the four bills I’ve sponsored this year:

Maryland State Budget

I’m thrilled to share the latest progress on the Maryland state budget. This week, the House of Delegates passed measures aimed at enhancing transportation, education, and childcare.  

Notably, we passed a downpayment and full funding for Year 3 of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, guaranteeing vital resources for our schools through FY ‘27. As a former teacher and principal, I’m deeply committed to ensuring every child receives a quality education. Part of this funding could come from HB1319 – Internet Gaming Authorization, which will put a referendum on the ballot asking voters if they approve of authorizing internet gaming in the State. If approved by the voters, the State is expected to receive over $300 million in revenues, the vast majority of which will go to public education. Additionally, we’re stabilizing state transportation funding with over $6.5 billion allocated, and providing nearly $488 million in new funding for the Child Care Scholarship Program. As negotiations with the Senate begin next week, I remain focused on addressing the budget deficit while ensuring vital investments in our state’s future. 

Health and Government Operations Committee

To ensure the successful passage of all bills before Crossover Day, the Health Government and Operations (HGO) Committee voted on 179 unique bills. Now that Crossover Day has passed, the HGO Committee has shifted its focus to voting on a range of bills from the Senate. These bills cover diverse healthcare-related topics, aiming to tackle various aspects of public health, healthcare administration, and access to essential services. Here’s a glimpse of some noteworthy bills currently being considered:

SB0705 (Sens. Hayes and Lam): Health Insurance – Qualified Resident Enrollment Program (Access to Care Act)

  • This bill aims to streamline access to suitable health plans for eligible residents, expanding state healthcare coverage and reducing the number of uninsured individuals. By enabling qualified residents to purchase plans through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, we remove unnecessary hurdles to coverage, ensuring inclusivity for all, regardless of immigration status. Moreover, this initiative is cost-neutral for the state, with new eligible enrollees required to pay their entire health insurance premium. Implementation is contingent upon securing approval for the waiver from U.S. agencies.

SB0778 (Sen. Gallion): Health Insurance – Hearing Aids for Adults – Coverage

  • SB0778 tackles the hurdles older adults face in accessing hearing aids. Mandating insurance coverage for these devices ensures affordability and addresses the significant impact of untreated hearing loss on physical and mental well-being. With a $1,400 per hearing aid allowance every 36 months, individuals can select suitable aids without financial strain. This legislation acknowledges the dire consequences of untreated hearing loss, including increased risks of dementia, falls, and social isolation. By facilitating timely access to hearing aids, SB0778 enhances seniors’ quality of life and reduces long-term healthcare costs. Its passage would be a pivotal step towards addressing this pressing public health concern and ensuring equitable hearing healthcare access for older adults in Maryland.

SB0228 (Committee on Finance): Maryland Health Benefit Exchange – Qualified Health Plans – Dental Coverage

  • SB0228 ensures that all qualified health plans (QHPs) on the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange include essential pediatric dental coverage. By repealing exemptions, it guarantees children’s access to oral healthcare, preventing potential hurdles in obtaining separate dental coverage. This crucial bill safeguards consumers from unknowingly purchasing plans without vital dental benefits, promoting both the oral health of Maryland children and consumer protection in health insurance markets.

 

Addressing Senior Citizens: A Commitment to Informative Engagement and Advocacy

As a member of the Health and Government Operations Committee and a dedicated member of the Subcommittee on  Health and Government Operations and Long-Term Care, it was my distinct pleasure to address our senior citizens in Annapolis, informing them about the latest legislative developments that directly impact their lives. Engaging with our seniors, understanding their concerns, and providing them with updates on relevant bills is not just a duty but a privilege. It’s essential that our senior community stays informed and empowered, ensuring that their voices are heard and their needs are met through our legislative efforts. I am deeply committed to continuing this dialogue and advocating for policies that enhance the well-being and quality of life for all senior citizens.

Women’s History Month 

Women’s History Month in March celebrates the remarkable contributions of women legislators in Maryland and beyond, breaking barriers, advocating for gender equality, and shaping inclusive legislation. Through diverse perspectives and unwavering determination, they amplify marginalized voices, champion crucial issues like reproductive rights, healthcare access, and equal pay, inspiring future leaders. Let’s honor their enduring impact on the political process and beyond. As a legislator, I’m proud to co-sponsor HB1259 Health Insurance – Breast and Lung Cancer Screening – Coverage Requirements, aiming to expand coverage for breast and lung cancer screenings, ensuring broader access to essential healthcare services for women. This change streamlines insurance coverage, potentially aiding in early detection and treatment, and improving women’s health outcomes.

HB0959: Health Occupations – Certified Dialysis Technicians – Continuing Education Requirement

It was wonderful to see my bill, HB0959, discussed in the Senate Finance Committee this week. This bill proposes a much-needed update to the continuing education mandate for Certified Dialysis Technicians (CDTs). Instead of a specific course, the bill allows for a flexible 3-hour requirement, offering CDTs options like seminars and self-study. This change aims to make education more accessible and adaptable, ensuring CDTs stay current with dialysis care practices. I encourage the committee to support HB0959, as it bridges the gap in educational requirements for CDTs and enhances the quality of dialysis care.

Baltimore Orioles 

As spring training nears its end, anticipation mounts for Baltimore Orioles fans like myself, eager for the season’s start. This week’s impressive victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, with a resounding 13-4 triumph, showcases the team’s prowess and fuels excitement for what lies ahead. As a devoted Orioles supporter, I eagerly await the camaraderie and excitement of another thrilling season. With each swing and pitch, the anticipation for the season opener grows, promising new memories and moments to cherish. Here’s to the Baltimore Orioles and the exhilarating season ahead!

Visit Annapolis 

The weather is starting to warm up, and spring is around the corner. The streets are getting more packed with pedestrians wanting to take in the vibrance and ambiance of the state’s capital. I encourage all my readers to come down and visit us to take in the beauty of our state’s capital. There is a rich history and culture to be explored, with several museums and restaurants to visit. 

I extend my sincere thanks to the constituents of District 8 for their engagement and valuable contributions during our recent State House meeting. Your participation and insights are crucial to our community’s progress, shaping policies that truly reflect our shared goals. Your dedication inspires our path forward. Let’s continue to collaborate and strengthen our district. Thank you for your trust and active involvement.

How to Follow Maryland General Assembly’s 2024 Session

To follow the Maryland General Assembly’s 2023 session, you can visit the Maryland General Assembly’s website. The website provides the following resources:

  1. The Schedule for the 2024 Session
  2. The Committee Schedule (which will be updated regularly to reflect any changes)
  3. The Legislation Charts allow you to look up and track proposed bills.

It’s important to note that every bill introduced before the deadline will be granted a hearing. In addition, before the hearing takes place, a fiscal and policy note will be published regarding the bill. By utilizing these resources, you can stay up-to-date with the Maryland General Assembly’s 2024 session and track the progress of proposed bills.

Apply Now for the Delegate Scholarship Program

To be eligible for the academic scholarship, you will need to reside in the 8th Legislative District and attend or plan to attend a Maryland college, university, or trade school (unless you have acquired a “unique major” designation from the Maryland Higher Education Commission). The application and detailed instructions can be accessed by clicking on the following link: https://delegatebhandari.com/scholarship/ QUESTIONS: Please call Sadiksha Basnet, Scholarship Coordinator, in my office with any questions PRIOR to filling out the form; harry.bhandari@house.state.md.us or (410) 841-3526.

Your Voice Matters

I extend my gratitude to all those who have contributed their perspectives on legislation. Your advocacy is not only acknowledged, but also deeply valued. A knowledgeable and involved constituency enhances the effectiveness of our government, whether at the federal, state, or local level. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any inquiries, feedback, worries, or requests for support. Look for my weekly session updates each week through Session Information. As always, if you have any feedback on how I can serve you better, or issues you’d like to know more about, I’d love to hear from you at harry.bhandari@house.state.md.us

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